Homeland Security

Drones are useful, but not the solution or the problem

The use of drones to attack the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and al Qaeda there and in Yemen, draws criticism for exacerbating anti-American sentiment. But drone use needs to be seen in broader contexts as the U.S. withdraws from combat in Afghanistan, deals with unrest in the Middle East and Persian Gulf, and grapples with al Qaeda threats to our homeland.


It's time for the truth on 'enhanced interrogation'

We already knew that the CIA gave unusual access to the creative team behind the movie “Zero Dark Thirty.” Now we know at least some of what the agency got in return. A memo obtained earlier this week by Gawker shows that the screenwriter, Mark Boal, altered two scenes at the CIA’s request.
In the end, though, this revelation doesn’t tell us much, if anything, about the film’s accuracy, or lack thereof. “Zero Dark Thirty” is and always was fiction, a product of its creators’ artistic and political choices. One of their choices was to depict torture as effective, disturbing but necessary, and something that American heroes do.
As a former interrogator, I’ll be the first to acknowledge that all of us — including those at the CIA — are interested in gaining actionable intelligence to disrupt terrorist plots. But as someone who interrogated members of al Qaeda, I know that torture is ineffective, disturbing and unnecessary.


Administration should release post-9/11 CIA program report

When he was a senator from Delaware, Joe Biden was never one to mince words. As Vice President, he still has that same characteristic candor. It was on full display this past weekend at the McCain Institute, when Vice President Biden voiced support for releasing the Senate intelligence committee’s report on the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program during a discussion with Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.).

During their discussion, Senator McCain, a vocal supporter of releasing the report, asked Vice President Biden whether he agreed that “we should expose those abuses of human rights” committed by the United States to make sure that the nation never repeats them. Biden’s response was clear: “I’m with you John, I’m where you are.” Biden then added,  “I think the only way you excise the demons is you acknowledge, you acknowledge exactly what happened straightforwardly.”


Don't deride our drone and cyber operators

In a statement variously attributed to George Orwell and Winston Churchill, and perhaps uttered by neither, citizens of prosperous democracies are periodically reminded that “we sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.” Today, we also rest comfortably because attentive people at consoles sit ready to do the same.
The concept of valor lies at the heart of the Pentagon’s April 15 cancellation of the Distinguished Warfare Medal, intended to recognize service members directly impacting combat operations from locations outside the battlefield. The demise of the so-called “Nintendo medal” was widely acclaimed in both the media and large swaths of the military community as a restoration of martial virtue and a fitting rebuke to “cubicle warriors.”


Violations of laws of war are war crimes


Back in 1994, during the Rwandan Genocide, the Security Council embarrassed itself and made a mockery of international law when it decided to pass Resolution 918 on May 17, which stated, “Recalling in this context that the killing of members of an ethnic group with the intention of destroying such a group, in whole or in part, constitutes a crime punishable under international law.” 


A well-intentioned but ill-conceived compromise

Compromise and bipartisan are the two words being used to describe the Senate "Gang of Eight’s" immigration bill. No doubt, reaching agreement on the first real chance at overhauling our archaic immigration laws was no easy feat.

A rigorous path to earned citizenship for the 11 million living in the shadows? Check. Clearing decades-long family backlogs? Check.

The big wins are easy to spot, but the devil is in the details. And that is where ill-conceived compromises were made.

Once again health care was put on the chopping block to make the bill more palatable to conservative lawmakers. A major misstep.


House cyber bill protects privacy, civil liberties while addressing threat

Cyber espionage and warfare pose a grave threat to our nation. Foreign countries such as China and Iran are conducting massive cyber attacks and espionage campaigns on the United States, disrupting our networks and stealing our trade secrets. In both open and classified briefings, we hear far too often about the loss of American companies’ corporate trade secrets and the jobs that go along with them. Although our nation is vulnerable to serious damage from cyber attacks, we do not have to concede this fight, nor should we wait for a crippling incident to act. It is imperative that we safeguard our networks from foreign hackers while still protecting Americans’ privacy and civil liberties.


President Obama must act to close Guantánamo

The process of dying is never easy or painless. Death by starvation is particularly grueling: the body cannibalizes fat and tissue, wasting to skin and bones, leading to dehydration, incoherence and, ultimately, heart failure. It is a slow and agonizing ordeal, even for the most committed hunger striker. It took IRA member and British MP Bobby Sands more than two months to die in Maze prison when he starved himself to death in 1981. And for those who are force-fed, the process is even more excruciating; they may endure as food is pumped up their noses and into their stomachs like a veal calf, but eventually they will die as well.


Immigration reform's fast track to nowhere - Unless it slows down

In recent weeks, a choreographed immigration narrative has taken shape: the 2012 election shocked Republicans into concluding that granting U.S. citizenship to 12 to 20 million illegal immigrants (and millions more of their relatives) provides the path to national electoral salvation. Divorced from political reality and practical legislative considerations, this formulation ignores Republican leaders' commitment to fairness, the rule of law, and voter opinion. It also ignores bicameral and institutional prerogatives leaders in both Houses have an obligation to defend. The inevitability of prompt passage of comprehensive immigration reform will unravel in the coming weeks. Here's why.
First, a large majority of Republican voters oppose granting citizenship to those who entered or remain in the country unlawfully. No matter how this proposal is packaged, Americans have historically opposed conferring citizenship to those whose primary claim to legal recognition is violating the law. Awarding citizenship to unlawful residents ignores notions of fair play and respect for the law central to our system of justice. Simply put, violating the immigration laws is neither a civic virtue nor a civil right. In 2005, the House passed comprehensive immigration enforcement legislation by a substantial margin. Members realized then what durable unemployment and historically low labor participation rates make even more clear now: immigration enforcement and border security must precede efforts to normalize the status of unlawful residents. House leaders recognize that the primary and general election viability of GOP members would be compromised if they did a volte face on a matter of principle to their constituents.  
Second, fast tracking immigration legislation ignores institutional realities in both houses. Bicameralism and adherence to regular order preserve democratic accountability and the integrity of the legislative process. A self-appointed band of senators drafting major bills behind closed doors not only compromises these principles but diminishes the legitimacy of whatever product emerges. While Senator Rubio has pledged to ensure all senators have a chance to review the legislation, he has no authority to ensure it receive adequate consideration before committees of jurisdiction. In addition to Judiciary and Homeland Security Committee issues contained in the bill, the Senate Finance and HELP committees deserve an opportunity to determine the bill’s impact on tax, Medicare and healthcare costs associated with legalizing 12-20 million unlawful residents and millions more of their immediate relatives. If senators are deprived an opportunity to review the legislation under regular order, a filibuster is likely. Senators who support immigration reform would likely vote against cloture until they -- and their constituents --are convinced the proposed 850-page legislation receives the consideration it merits. This will be consume considerable floor time.


Confronting terrorism, united as Americans

A marathon runner myself, I want to begin this week’s column by letting the runners, first responders, families and friends of those involved in Monday’s tragic events in Boston know that Pam and I send our thoughts, prayers and well-wishes to you. The acts of kindness and bravery following Monday’s horrific events warm my heavy heart, and I commend our first responders – the EMS, fire and police officers – who rushed to help victims not knowing whether they were in harm’s way.  President Obama, our police and intelligence officers and the leaders involved in this investigation deserve our support and prayers as they work to bring the person or persons behind this atrocious terrorist attack to justice. As the president said, when confronting terrorism and perpetrators of heinous attacks like these, there are no Republicans and Democrats – only Americans.